Making a Homesteader


Lately the thought of homesteading and dreams has been on my mind. I’m part of an online group of homesteaders and one of the questions I see asked most often is “how do you get the money to start a homestead?” followed closely by the second most frequent statement of “I’m giving up, because I will never have the money necessary to start a homestead”. These types of questions and the giving up of dreams has really got me stewing. So, I’m going to share my two cents and I won’t even bill you for it.

fresh-baked-breadThere seems to be some misconception that homesteading is defined as having a huge piece of land, going off grid and being totally self sufficient. Let’s just cut the crap out of that myth! Your homestead is whatever you chose to make it. I’ve seen people do remarkably self sufficient things in an apartment and those that have large pieces of land that do very little. How you chose to define your homestead lifestyle is a personal and unique choice. Plus, there is a lot that can be done before you ever get your land. From making your own clothes, buying food in raw, bulk form and preparing it, grinding your wheat for bread, making cheese and canning your fresh bought produce. Also learning to make wine, soap, candles, spin wool, make salves and even identify native plants and herbs. These skills can all be part of the learning process and will serve you well in your journey to becoming more self sufficient. Yes, we would love to start off with a few hundred acres, a solar powered well and all their outbuildings and fences ready to go. However, most of us don’t get that luxury and like almost all things in life you have to walk before you can run. We accept this constraint in other parts of our life but for some reason we refuse to accept it for the dream of homesteading. Most adults have had enough life experience to know that you have to approach any major task with a series of small steps and goals. Yet when it comes to idea of homesteading there is a misconception that you have to go big or give up, and for too many people they chose the latter. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m going to go out on a limb and state the somewhat obvious….. if you can’t make it through this very first (and relatively easy) hurdle of how to begin homesteading maybe this isn’t the life for you. No offense is intend. Let me explain. As I said earlier, homesteading can have a lot of different definitions and if you look at a hundred homesteaders you would see a hundred different ways to do it. However, one thing ties them all together, an attitude of perseverance. Interestingly, you get a bunch of us in a room together and start talking about any farm or homestead topic and you will see arguments break out all over the place about how best to complete the project. This is a group that can’t seem to agree on much of anything.  The one thing I have seen in common in all of these people is that homesteaders don’t quit. They will face incredible challenges and keep going. To me homesteading is less about what your living accommodations look like and more about your spirit, determination, inner grit or whatever you chose to call it. 


I get the fact it can be incredibly frustrating and emotionally challenging to want something and to feel each set back is a permanent barrier. However, if you can’t get through these road blocks how will you pick yourself back up when you go down to the chicken coop and found a weasel has wiped out most of your flock? Or when you lose your best doe during kidding complications? Or when your entire year’s garden is lost to weather and pests? Or when you are so physically ill you don’t have the energy to make it to the bathroom down the hall, but have to drag yourself outside to care for your animals? Wanting to get started on a big piece of land and jump into whatever you envision the lifestyle to be is just the beginning of many frustrating homestead tests. You see, there will always be challenges on a homestead, it is the one thing you can count on. Yes, you can cry, scream and rail against the injustice and unfairness of it all and then you have to pick yourself back up and do it again. So when I hear people say they are going to quit their homestead dream, I feel a sadness for the death of their dream but I don’t push them to continue because this lifestyle is not for everyone. You have to have the fortitude to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other despite heartbreak, illness and unimaginable trials if you want to live this lifestyle. You see, homesteaders aren’t born, they are made, painstakingly etched from buckets of their own blood, sweat and tears.


Winter’s hatchet weather


We’ve had a unusual late fall here in the Pacific NorthWET. We’ve got snow! I’m guessing that someone has been praying just a bit too hard for a white Christmas and overshot their target date. Don’t blame me because 1) my prayers don’t usually have such an immediate and  direct response like this and 2) I hate driving in the slushy, white stuff. We’re not even two weeks into the month of December and we’ve had snow twice already.

The first snow was beautiful…..until it turned to ice. Oddly enough most of the west side of the state didn’t seem to have much snow accumulation or the resulting ice and people thought I was exaggerating until I showed them pictures from our area. While the snow fell for a few hours that day the bone chilling cold lasted for days (*disclaimer: We (meaning, “I”), are total weather wimps out this way and “bone chilling cold” is usually anything in the mid to low 20’s. Yes, I am fully aware this is almost bikini weather for some of our more frozen states……but not for this gal!)

tank-in-snow-120916-editAnyway, I digress, so while I appreciated the beauty of the white stuff, I have to admit I was slightly less than thrilled when it started snowing again late last night. Seriously?! We live in the land of rain and gray skies, this snow stuff doesn’t happen very often and rarely in the fall. More often than not our cold spells result in what I call broomstick weather. I call it that because I can take a broom out to do chores and brush off any frost and then flip over the broom and use the handle to bust up any ice in the water troughs. The last few days we have slipped into hatchet weather. Yup, you guessed it, the ice is so thick in the waterers that it laughs in the face, er….. handle of the broom. No, hardcore weather calls for hardcore tools….time to break out the hatchet! That’s right folks, it’s hatchet weather at the farm. As brutal as that sounds it really just means that I use the hatchet to break up the ice, but it sounds way cooler if I don’t explain it.

Snowy days on the farm can be difficult. It means that chores take a bit longer  to ensure everyone has enough food, that ice is broken up from the troughs and having to run out and check on the animals more frequently. However, it also means roaring fires, baked goods and comfort foods, soap making and maybe even trying my hand at knitting. Stay warm my friends.

Apples, apples, apples everywhere


It’s apple time here on the farm. It’s one of my favorite fruits to process because the options are endless. And let’s face it apples are easier to pick than the plums. The plums are more delicate requiring some care in gathering them and the tree has inch long, very painful thorns (AKA plum weapons of warfare). I prefer my fruit not to fight back.


I gathered the first batch of apples as thoughts of sauce, pies and dried chips dance through my head. The dogs even enjoy apple harvesting since they gather up the rejects to snack on. I don’t let them do that with the plums for obvious reasons which have to do with liking my carpet the color it is.

After the fiasco picking plums a few years ago I made it a rule that I wouldn’t climb the trees anymore. For those that don’t remember I hit my head on a branch and then lost my footing and jump/fell out of the tree landing wrong which caused me to hobble around for a month or so as I healed. The lesson learned was that apparently I’m past the tree climbing phase of my life.  Today, however I broke that rule, because what else are rules for if not for breaking? I may no longer be as nimble as a monkey but I’m happy to report that both woman and tree survived. Although I’ve discovered a weird tendency for people to phone me as soon as I’m up a tree. Seriously, as soon as I get up about 10+ feet in the air my phone starts ringing ….. I think Mother Nature is testing my focus.


Now the kitchen works begins. The first batch of apple slices that have been heavily seasoned with cinnamon and are in the dehydrator. Now to start some apple sauce and maybe some pie filling. *THIS* is when I start really feeling like fall is coming.

Painting a barn

We put new siding up on the barn this year, which means I needed to find some motivation to paint it. This took some serious inspiration searching on my part because I truly hate to paint. There is a very good reason I’m not a professional painter, other than the fact I absolutely suck at it….no wait, maybe that is the reason. DSCN3397.JPG

My dad was a professional painter for about a minute. He used to always tell me painting is 90% prep work. But of course I have zero patience for prep work and prefer to jump right into projects. Painting the barn  was no exception. I taped off the bare minimum and didn’t bother cleaning my work area first……a choice that would come back to haunt me.

I had barely touched the roller to the siding when a gust of wind blew up out of nowhere and pulled half of the tape off the wall. Dang it!! Well, that’s what happens when you put tape down a dirty surface, it doesn’t stick. I pushed it back down and started again only to have another gust come up and this time take all the tape off one wall. Of course when the tape came off the wall it fell into the paint tray and then blew around making an abstract paint design that would have made Picasso proud.

“Really??? Not funny. Not **** funny at all!” (***I might have ‘seasoned’ my statement with a few choice words that are not for the timid)hay


Great, I was screaming at the wind. If my new neighbors, who just moved in, had any doubts about how thin my grasp on sanity was (and let’s face it, why wouldn’t they?) I think I confirmed their suspicion in spades. In addition, I cringed as I realized that I had just screamed obscenities that would make most people blush. Did I mention the new neighbors have young children and are Christian? Don’t get me wrong, I’m Christian too, but they strike me as good Christians and I fall more into the ‘struggling Christian’ category. Great, now I was going to Hell for charring their young children’s ears. Could the day get any better?

I don’t know why I even ask these questions? It’s like a challenge to Mother Nature. About this time a huge gust of wind came up and blew the  loose hay and dirt that I had neglected to clean up into the paint tray, on to the wet siding and into the paint can. I stood there just stunned and could practically hear Dad cackling with laughter. His words rang in my ears, “painting is 90% prep work honey.”

“Yes, Dad I KNOW!!!!!”

Great, now I was yelling at my dead father. I’m just thankful at this point that neighbors didn’t call the authorities out to check on me.  My horse trainer has been telling me I talk too much while training my horse and I tell her I don’t. After yelling at the wind, my deceased father and the barn, I’m inclined to think she may be on to something.

Anyway, all this to say if you happen to stop by and notice the freshly painted barn and see the hay painted into the siding…’s a new form of barn decor. Totally intentional and trust me, it’ll be all the rage soon.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Fruit Fly Wars


The farm house is under attack. I know I say this every year, but its true every year.  I also know I say that “this is the worst year ever for fruit flies”, but that’s also true. I swear each generation of fruit flies is learning from the previous ones and getting harder and harder to kill . They are getting more prolific and talented in finding new ways to torment me.


Some of you who follow our adventures on Facebook may remember during our first year on the farm a dear friend took pity on me (or got tired of hearing me whine) and bought me a fruit fly trap. It appeared to work well and when we used that and used boiling water in all the drains 2x a day we seemed to hold the enemy at bay.


Then the next year dear daughter and I had a contest. We made two fruit fly traps, which basically consisted of a glass bowl partially filled with bait and covered with plastic wrap that had a few holes punched into it. I filled mine with apple cider vinegar and she filled her trap with wine. They both did well and those were my weapons of mass fruit fly destruction for the year.

This year we are being completely overrun. I have removed all vegetable and fruit produce from the counters and keep everything in the fridge. We dump boiling water down the drains at least once a day and I have made my new and improved fruit fly traps. At first I filled them with my tried and true lure of vinegar but we didn’t catch anything. Not even one bugger! So I emptied them out and added wine….waa–laa now I’m in business. Apparently fruit flies prefer good red wine. I can’t say I blame them or that I’m surprised. I do too! You know things are getting bad if I’m willing to donate some of my wine to the cause. Anyway, even with these tools of war craft I am still losing the battle…..until I found a new weapon.

It happened quite by accident. I had gone to the sink to wash my hands. I had gotten my hands good and soapy when I reached my limit of frustration at the little buggers flying around my face. I waved my hands in front of my face to shoo them away (and hopefully keep them from flying into my mouth and up my nose) …… and the fruit flies stuck to my soapy hands! I immediately thought, “Ohhhhhh, this just got interesting!” and a new form of entertainment was formed.


Now, several times a day I soap up my hands well and then go wave them wildly through the kitchen, around the fruit fly traps, the fermented foods and sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly evil, I’ll leave a banana peel out just to tempt them. Hey, I never said I play fair. I play to win!

I am probably enjoying ‘bug killing soapy hands’ way more then I should. It’s a cheap form of entertainment for me and so incredibly satisfying. I got 7 at one time yesterday!! Today my limit was 4. Maybe I’m making headway in the war and as an added benefit my hands have never been cleaner!! One day in the future they will one day refer to me as “The Great Fruit Fly Killer”…… okay, so maybe I’m getting a bit carried away. Whatever, you’ve got to appreciate the simple pleasures right? Excuse me while I go wash my hands!

This heartbreaking, wild and take your breath away miraculous lifestyle

I cradled the baby bird in the palm of my hand, watching it struggle to take each breath.  It was so young that is didn’t even have fuzz over its entire body, just little tuffs of down in patches here and there.  It had all happened so suddenly. I came home and entered through the garage door. As I stepped onto the stoop getting ready to enter the house I heard a thump. I looked up to the swallow’s nest that they had built just above our doorway and saw nothing unusual. Then I looked down. I saw a tiny little blob wiggling on the ground. The little guy was so tiny he didn’t have his eyes open and couldn’t even stand up.  He was literally a wiggling blob. My breath caught in my throat. I looked up again, that was a long drop to the ground. Did it really fall all that way? Now that I thought back, I think something brushed my shoulder before I heard the noise, maybe I inadvertently broke its fall. Or maybe my mind was just trying desperately to make sense of this situation.

baby bird.JPGBut now came the dilemma. What do I do? Do I let nature take its course? Or do I intervene and try to help? If I intervene what should I do, try to place it back in the nest or try to raise it myself?  I think the best case scenario would be to put him back in his nest but there was no way I could get up there myself.  The swallows had built their nest in the highest peak of our garage and it had a veritable maze of support beams, and trusses surrounding it.  As for nature, well, I understand that these things happen but I also couldn’t let my dogs act as nature’s enforcers in the matter. I closed up the garage and scooped the little guy up into a carton and called Hubs. He informed me he would pull out the big extension ladder when he got home and see if he could get it back in the nest. Whew, at least we now had a game plan. Hopefully the little guy could hang on till Hubs got home.

This is the part of farming that I struggled with regularly. I understand on a cerebral level that things happen. There are two sides to every situation, life and death, yin and yang, light and darkness. However, that knowledge does nothing to comfort my  tender heart when these all too frequent situations arise.  I’ve met many people over the course of the years that say they would love to live on a farm, but they acknowledge that they could never face the harshness of daily farm life. I have no response to these people because in truth, farm life is harsh and unforgiving. You can find yourself begging, bartering and/or praying when you watch a new born baby goat struggle to survive. You can become bitter or depressed when you sit holding that same baby goat, or cow, or pig as you  then slowly watch them give up the fight.  Farming is hard, not just the amount of work or the long hours, it is emotionally taxing. There is no arguing that fact.  However, as I mentioned before, there is another side to this tale. Just as there is darkness there is light. Farming also allows me to witness the beautiful birth of baby goats. I get to see them stumble to take their first steps to find mom so they can nurse. I get to see their playful antics as they bound across the pasture as if attached to springs. I am privileged to have a parade of wildlife that wanders through our property, everything from deer, coyote, rabbits and even an occasional bear.  I get to see the first bit of green as the garden springs to life and taste the sweetest and freshest vegetables available when it’s time to harvest. These are gifts.

One of the most important things I have learned from living on a farm is that to survive the hard stuff you have to cherish the gifts.  In farm life, no in ANY life, you will have two sides and you must  appreciate both to live life to the fullest. To focus on the hard stuff would break me. I would easily become depressed, bitter and overwhelmed by the sheer sadness.  On the other hand to focus only on the blessings would make light of the struggles and feel disrespectful to the animals in our care that didn’t make it. So, for me farming, and life, is about finding balance. Learning to weep during the difficult times and then pick myself back up and appreciate the beauty of this heartbreaking, wild and take your breath away miraculous lifestyle we chose.  It’s not easy, but for us it’s the only choice.

Edited to add: Hubs managed to climb up and put the baby bird back in the nest and this morning momma bird was back and caring for it. ❤ Happy endings.

Noxious and Poisonous Weeds

It’s that time of year again, the time when I need to get out to the do some pasture management.  I try to go walk the pastures at the beginning of spring and again partway through summer to pull any noxious or poisonous weeds. Ok so technically spring started months ago, but as usual I’m playing catch up.

This year my biggest foe is the foxglove. It’s popping up everywhere! We have the tansy pretty much under control but the foxglove decided I needed another challenge in my life. Both of these plants are considered toxic, but to be honest I’ve seen the goats nibble on them and they’re still kicking. Now before I start getting hate mail, let me say I do my best to pull the poisonous plants but am I going to get all of them? No. Not even close. I can however pull them before the foxglove seeds and make sure that it’s not the most prevalent thing growing in my pasture. My goats mostly avoid the toxic plants but I see no reason to make it easy for them. If the goats really want to eat it they’re going to have to hunt for it.

karma weeding-1

Years ago I took a master goat class and I remember some guy saying he didn’t worry about poisonous plants because goats could tell what was poisonous and what wasn’t. I listened to this in disbelief as he slurped down his diet soda and munched on his Cheetos. Dude, we’re supposed to be the enlightened species and most people don’t eat avoid stuff that’s bad for us but you expect the goats to do better?

Finally, after working in the pasture for a few hours, I went back out to battle the blackberries. I get lots of people messaging me saying to let the goats eat the blackberries and I wish I could. Our little farm backs up to 3500+ acres of forest and until I get the perimeter fence up, letting the goats loose to chow down on blackberries is just not a good idea if I want to get them back in the pasture at any point in the near future. So, until the fencing is done I will continue to battle blackberries by hand and occasionally pull out a goat or two to help. Karma is a favorite for this because she’s convinced she’s really a dog and follows me around the farm as if she had an invisible leash connecting us. Which occasionally makes the other ‘real dogs’ a bit jealous. But that’s a tail (pun intended) for another day.

murphy wanting attention-1

Murphy must have felt that Karma was getting a bit too much of my attention.